Sr Clare, the Congregational Leader, reflects on changes in health ministryPrint
Sister Clare Nolan, the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Charity, holds a unique position in the Catholic health firmament.
As the leader of her order, she is responsible for 109 Sisters, but she is also the Member Representative of Mary Aikenhead Ministries, which in turn is the owner of St Vincent’s Health Australia, Australia’s largest, not-for-profit health and aged care provider. It also includes schools in NSW, Queensland and Victoria among its continuing ministries which togethers it employs more than 20,000 staff.
In her role as Congregational Leader, it falls to Sister Clare to carry the flame for the order which is the oldest in Australia and which for 182 years has been ministering to the marginalised, the poor, and the sick.
Now in her sixth and final year in the role, Sister Clare is reflecting on the changes that the Catholic health sector has undergone. Some things have changed immeasurably, such as co-operation across the sector.
“My heart jumps for joy to hear that all the CEOs are working together to meet the needs of the people. It’s a wonderful healing ministry that we can offer,” says Sister Clare, fresh from hosting a Zoom call for her Congregation (“we thought zoom was a noise made by a motorbike until recently.”)
It wasn’t always that way. As a young registered nurse, trained at the Mater in Brisbane. she first entered the novitiate in 1964. Her first ministry was at St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Sydney’s Darlinghurst. At that time, there wasn’t much conversation at her level between the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Charity, and the Little Company of Mary.
“I’ve loved every minute of the healing ministry of Christ as Sister of Charity, but I’m delighted to see now how Australia-wide that Catholic Health Care is working together building healthier communities for the love of Christ,” says Clare.
The structure and governance of religious orders has also changed to include the laity now invited to become the stewards of those health and education facilities that were once the sole preserve of the orders.
She is part of a generation of older Sisters who realised about 25 years ago following Vatican II that they no longer had neither the inclination to be in leadership or were not suitable to be in it. Such responsibilities inevitably took them further from the frontline of ministry.
Full story on Catholic Health Australia here.